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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 111

No hope yet for Sri Lankans held in Thailand

Bangkok, 22 July, ( Thai immigration authorities continues to remain tight lipped about the plight of the Sri Lankan languishing in the Immigration Detention Centre and in other prisons in Thailand. According to informed sources Thai Government has refused access to diplomats from asylum giving countries to meet the Sri Lankan detainees to interview them and to assess whether they are eligible for resettlement in their countries under humanitarian laws.

Asian Tribune learns that still there is no change as far as the UNHCR is concerned. Kitty McKinsey, UNHCR’s Public Relations and Information Officer for Asia based in Bangkok, told Asian Tribune, that they have no access to those Sri Lankans detained in the detention centres.

Thailand is a country ruled by Army generals. On 19 September 2006 Army chief General Sonthi Boonyaratglin staged a coup against the government of caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and toppled the democratically elected Government.

Official sources said that Thailand considers illegal immigrants a threat to security of the country. Illegal immigrants are suspected of having links with the ongoing insurgency in the South of Thailand.

According to sources all those arrested Sri Lankans are said to be illegal immigrants in the country as they have no visa to stay in the country.

When Asian Tribune contacted Sri Lanka’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Bhaila he said that no sooner this issue of Sri Lankans languishing in the Thailand’s Immigration Detention Centre was brought to his notice by the Asian Tribune, he instructed the Foreign Ministry’s Director General of Political Affairs to take appropriate action to safeguard those held in the detention centre and in prisons.

He said the matter has been immediately dealt with by the Sri Lankan Embassy in Thailand. The mission in Thailand has sent in a report giving all the names and details of those held in the detention centres and in prisons.

He further added that Foreign Ministry has already instructed the Charge de affaires of the Sri Lanka Embassy to take up the matter with the Thai authorities to bring this humanitarian issue to a conclusion.

The Deputy Minister also said that relatives of those people who are in the detention centre or in prison could contact the Sri Lanka Embassy in Thailand for necessary assistance.

In the meantime Wimal de Silva, Charge de Affaires o the Sri Lanka Embassy in Thailand told Asian Tribune that he will be initially meeting the Deputy Superintendent of Immigration, Police Lt. Col. Jarut Saruttayaporn on Tuesday.

He said that he and his officers are visiting various prisons to meet and find out details of those Sri Lankans held by the Thai authorities. He said Sri Lankans are held in three different places which includes also the immigration detention centre in Bangkok.

Asian Tribune contacted five NGOs in Thailand which deals with the welfare of the Sri Lankan refugees. They said that they are unable to meet those Sri Lankans who are held in the immigration detention centers. Almost all of them said that Thai immigration authorities have denied access for them to meet the Sri Lankans.

They said majority of those arrested are Tamils and are already registered with the UNHCR in Bangkok and their status has been approved as Refugees under the Geneva Convention. Normally their cases are referred to asylum giving countries for consideration for resettlement.

Many NGOS told Asian Tribune that they are seeking the assistance of the international community to bring pressure on the Thai authorities for an acceptable conclusion.

- Asian Tribune -

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